In a March 13 MacCentral story, Greg Jarboe, vice president of marketing at Web CT, a Lynnfield, Mass.-based e-learning services firm, said that Apple is actively looking for partners to build e-learning applications for its new operating system. That comes as a surprise to Malcolm Duncan, chief technology officer of
ClearLearning, who said that Apple apparently has zero interest in working with them on their Test Pilot e-learning product.
“I don’t think Apple is willing to work with any third parties,” he told MacCentral. “If that is so, then their education plans are seriously handicapped. Test Pilot runs on Mac OS X and the traditional Mac operating system. (By the way, I got Test Pilot up and running on MacOS X within days after its release). However, EVERY attempt to talk to someone within Apple’s education group at their company headquarters has failed — and I mean no response whatsoever to any communication. It’s definitely a slap in the face of my 17 years of Mac OS development and promotion. And it’s clearly not a move that promotes good will.”
Test Pilot is a software package designed for the automated creation of assessments for delivery and response collection using a Web server. Optionally, it can automatically score responses. Test Pilot consists of a question authoring database and a Web server extension to both administer the assessments and record, score and retrieve user responses — all without requiring any knowledge of HTML, programming or the more complex issues of Web development.
Educators can use Test Pilot to create and administer surveys, tests and assessments over the Web or an Intranet. Duncan says the service has been designed to provide for the easy creation and deployment on online assessment using the latest Internet technologies. Test Pilot uses platform independent Internet technology to allow it to fit into any educational or corporate computing environment, he adds. ClearLearning says that the service can save up to 40 percent of a teacher’s time by automatically grading assessments, as well as increasing student performance through instant feedback.
Duncan said that ClearLearning’s local rep forwarded information about Test Pilot to Apple, but never received a reply, “not even an acknowledgement of receipt.” He said he continues to send messages to Apple’s higher ed and K-12 groups, as well as the Apple Learning Interchange. Duncan said that it’s like mailing to a “black hole, there’s not even an automated reply.”
Though he said that local Apple education representatives have been very helpful, he thinks he’s receiving no help from the corporate headquarters because they’re only interested in systems built in their own WebObjects technology.
Duncan has been a developer since the Mac was introduced. In fact, in the late 80’s, Apple had him do business school road shows on the online communication technology he developed for the Mac operating system when he was at Purdue’s business school’s exec ed program.
“We were doing remote networking before Apple Remote Access ever existed,” Duncan said. “You’d be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic Mac supporter, but they’re making it as hard as they can. Hell of a way to run a business.”
Last month ClearLearning — a venture-backed company founded with the assistance of Purdue University and the University of Chicago — released version 3.1 of Test Pilot, which runs on Internet servers based on Mac OS,MacOS X, Linux, UNIX, Microsoft Window NT, and Windows 2000. Assessment participants only need a browser and an Internet connection to access a Test Pilot assessment. The update adds the following new features: custom import of question banks for fast authoring, more results e-mailing options, additional feedback generation options, extra statistical results options, engineering unit notation handling, unit scaling for multiple permissible unit notations, and increased speed and performance.